Trashing our Food: The Costs of Food Waste in America and What We Can Do About It

Executive Summary:

The panelists at this event will discuss the problems associated with food waste, as well as the solutions. The approaches to be discussed follow the same “Reduce/Reuse/Recycle” paradigm as other waste prevention strategies. Food waste can first be reduced through programs that help food producers and food retailers better understand and efficiently meet demand without excess. When there is excess food, it can be reused or reallocated through food rescue programs and other services that match food surpluses with those in need. Finally, food waste that cannot be avoided, such as inedible components or post-consumer food scraps, can be recycled into a useful soil amendment through composting, or turned into electricity or biogas through anaerobic digestion.

Panelists will discuss how these solutions are being employed here in Seattle, including on the University of Washington campus, and throughout the U.S.

Student Involvement:

The panel is being organized by the Graduate Environmental Policy Forum of the Evans School of Public Affairs. All planning, outreach and promotion is being carried out by graduate student members of that group.

Education & Outreach:

The Graduate Environmental Policy Forum will utilize its mailing list to reach those interested in environmental policy; UW SEED has agreed to promote the event to its mailing list; the Program on the Environment and the UW Farm have also committed to alerting their faculty/staff and students about the event. The College of the Environment will include the event announcement on its event calendar. In addition, we will post a limited number of fliers around campus.

Environmental Impact:
  • Waste
Project Longevity:

Environmental Problem:

The U.S. produces almost 600 billion pounds of food each year and a 25-50% of it is wasted — left in fields, thrown out at the grocery store, left in the fridge until it spoils, or scraped into the garbage at the end of a meal. Wasted food costs farmers, consumers and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars every year, and the environmental costs are just as steep. It is estimated that 2% of all U.S. energy consumption goes into producing food that is ultimately thrown out. Because America’s energy economy remains highly dependent on fossil fuels, this translates into significant unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, food that is discarded in landfills creates methane emissions, itself a potent greenhouse gas.

As an institutional provider of dining and food services, food waste is an issue for the University of Washington. And all members of the UW community are affected by the environmental, social and economic consequences of food waste.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

Total amount requested from the CSF: $250
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


We are requesting $250 to provide an honorarium to bring Jonathan Bloom, author of 'American Wasteland' (a new book on food waste in the U.S.) to campus to participate in the panel. Additional funding for the event, including room rental fee, A/V equipment rental, and promotional materials, is being provided by the Evans Student Organization.

Non-CSF Sources:

Project Completion Total:


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date

Project Approval Forms: